views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Signs, Games and Messages
The Blue Elephant Theatre
26th October 2012


Don't call Sounding Motion a dance company. With a viola player, a composer and a choreographer as its directors, it's much more than that - giving equal billing to the music. Together, the trio have a formidable list of experience that was clearly on display in Signs, Games and Messages.

Imogen Bland's first piece, Three Taghs, was probably the most inaccessible for a dance novice. But the crucifixion, funeral and resurrection set to Tigran Mansurian's haunting dirge were still rather beautiful. Three Taghs took moves from Armenian religious rituals and, with the benefit of information and hindsight, succeeded in its mystical intent. Ably supported by Stephen Upshaw on strings and Calie Hough on percussion it was thought-provoking and married music and dance well.

Between the dancing were two musical interludes written by Gyorgy Kurtag, highlighting performer Upshaw's formidable talent. He had great skill in playing dirtily and forcefully when necessary, but could bring it back with a lightness of touch and elegance. It was exactly what Kurtag's sometimes schizophrenic work needed - the pieces, sometimes sounding like a bickering couple as they veered from strained strings to light plucking, were perfectly suited to Upshaw's talents.

Dying in Hawaii lifted the show with a more playful dance set to Javier Alvarez's Temazcal with Hough on the maracas. I always enjoy being surprised, and have never before seen the instruments being used as - well - instruments. Hough's dexterity in delivering the sounds while nonchalantly avoiding dancers Tim C J Chew and Michael Kitchin was staggering. The pair seemed to perform a love story, with Chew initially clinging to an uninterested Kitchin before the roles were reversed, the couple all the while objectifying each other. Sparking with energy and wit, the payoff delivered was like a well-told punchline, cheeky and knowing.

The second half saw Imogen Bland back on the stage alongside Anne Marie Kristensen for Dominick Mitchell-Bennett's piece Malus. And for a chilly October evening in the lead-up to Halloween, the already accomplished and entertaining scenes were even more appropriate, given it was a dark tale of revenge with hints of apple-bobbing.

The narrative, clearer here than in previous pieces, told of a maid enacting vengeance on her mistress. Bland's servant was reduced to bestial form by Kristensen's jealous, vindictive Lady. The pair did excellent work of Mitchell-Bennett's choreography, adding an unsettling quality to the already disturbing Biblical allusions and one wonderfully uncomfortable dance with Bland being led by red wool from her mouth. Dark, mysterious and intelligent, it certainly made me rethink what dance could be.

That is the beauty of Sounding Motion. Each performance redefined the evening, leaving you surprised and interested at every turn. In giving equal weight to both the music and dance, the show never felt staid or boring and was perfect for an autumnal night.

Signs, Games and Messages ran at the Blue Elephant Theatre from 24th to 27th October 2012.

Nearest tube station: Oval (Northern)

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